Katie Willis in Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical. Photo: Time Slip
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Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s musical
Created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin, and Roger Krumble
Based on the film by Roger Krumble
Directed by Zachary Boone
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
I hate to say it; but the 1990s are finally retro. Yes, the decade that brought us Friends, grunge, and AOL has made its way to the realm of nostalgia. As a millennial who was alive during that precious time, I am, dare I say, old enough to remember the styles, the fads, and the movies at the end of the recent millennium. Yes, it was a simpler time revolving around MTV and alternative culture. The music was loud and emotional and the movies were great, especially the teen movies. In fact, the 90’s perfected the genre. With a decade overflowing with young talent, teen movies of the time were raunchy and campy fairy tales where the boy gets the girl in the end. Cruel Intentions kept the camp and heightened sexuality and ramped it up a notch or two, full of rendezvous, manipulation, and awakenings. Time Slip Theatre’s current production of Cruel Intentions the 90s Musical, fuses hits from the 90s with a direct stage adaptation that hits all the right marks.
If you remember the movie, its stars, or anything about the ’90s, Time Slip has done well to create clever callbacks in short bursts. Kathryn has her cross necklace full of cocaine, Sebastian wears his tiny oval glasses and there are even some surprises as well. With an ensemble dressed in baby doll dresses, Doc Martens, and flannel, you can’t help but appreciate the effort to stir up memories of that time; even if the majority of the cast looks to be born after 1995. Stylistically, the acting choices lean closer to authentic rather than a retelling of the film script which breathes fresh life into the already iconic content.
At the core of the show is Brian Bowles as Sebastian and Myranda Thomas as his sultry and manipulative step-sister Kathryn. Rich, popular, and privileged, Bowles and Thomas create fully realized performances that play beautifully off of one another with every scheme. Thomas brings a feminist flair to her performance with each questionable choice she makes. Seeking revenge from heartbreak, Thomas is an absolute knockout with her renditions of “I’m the Only One,” “Bitch”, and the “Kathryn’s Turn” medley at the end of the show. Where Thomas brings relatability to the role, Bowles struts as the leading man with a bit of quirkiness. Providing a full-on tongue-in-cheek performance, here is an actor who has acknowledged the overdramatic source material and embraced it at every turn. His character may be unethical, but Bowles takes time to let Sebastian grow and mature in the ways of love. His performance of “Colorblind” is arguably the best scene in the entire show, in both staging and emotional pitch.
The ensemble brings top-notch vocals to many of the musical numbers. It is evident that these performers enjoy singing the classic tunes as each song brings more energy than the last. As Sebastian’s chaste conquest, Annette, Katie Willis shows strong range in a brassy version of “Just a Girl” and a soulful “Foolish Games.” Her “Lovefool” duet with Bowles is both jazzy and flirty. While the score is arguably the best hits of the 1990s, the physical demands of choreography and staging took away from the vocal talent. Songs like “No Scrubs,” “Bye Bye-Bye” and “I’ll Make Love to You” lost their comedic form and fell flat.
I should note that opening night saw a last-minute stand-in for an actor due to Covid. This change saw omissions and alterations of musical numbers throughout the show. Such is life in the current wave of the pandemic. But with a show like Cruel Intentions The 90’s Musical, it’s nice to sit back and remember the days of not so long ago.
Featuring Brian Bowles, Myranda Thomas, Katie Willis, Peighton Radlein, DeAirice Hobbs, Remy Sisk, Michael Detmer, Celest Vonderschmitt, Hannah Lechleiter, Anna Meade, Justin White, Corie Caudill, Ashley Drury, Kasen Meek, Adam Byrd
Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical
January 7-15, 2022
Time Slip Theater
1422 S. Shelby Street
Louisville, KY 40217
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!